Mother’s Day Monday | A Special Guest Feature by Becky Kimbell

Monday morning. I lurch out of bed late; brew much-needed coffee as I hurriedly attempt to create lunches that will pass the muster of Martha Stewart, Michelle Obama, and oh, yes, my kids; change my kale omelet idea to plain toaster waffles and a juice box in the car; and race to school hoping that I don’t encounter stop lights or radar. The kids run in the school door on time (barely). I breathe, enjoying the drive home in sacred silence. Then I walk through the door and remember with dread: yesterday was Mother’s Day.

In our home Mother’s Day ranks up there with Christmas or birthdays in excitement for the kids. That’s right…the kids. Homemade table decor, party lights, adorable cards, gorgeous fragrant blossoms adorning the breakfast table with a feast prepared for a queen. Right? Almost.

As I walked through the door this fateful Mother’s Day Monday a few years ago, I was greeted with the lingering aroma of scorched eggs and burnt toast. Paper clippings, open glue bottles, puddles of glitter and kiddie scissors remained on the table in the den. Wrapping paper and ribbon spilled out of boxes in the basement. It hit me. Is Mother’s Day really about being a mother? As I began cleaning up the mess in the silence of my own company, I of course felt guilty. Guilty that I selfishly wished I could have just gone away on my own. Guilty that I grumbled to myself about petty things like wasted glue bottles and baked-on glitter left over from creating the treasures my children had proudly presented to me the day before. Guilty that I felt encumbered to now have to prominently incorporate a paper mache penguin into our living room décor. A friend had displayed her children’s creative output in a manner suggesting she had hired a museum curator. Why couldn’t I honor my children in the same way? Surely I would rue the day I underappreciated their talents.

Motherhood and self-doubt go hand-in-hand, as do motherhood and self-reproach. No matter how hard we try, how much we seem to accomplish in a day, or how compassionate, smart, and fit our children are, someone always seems to do it better. We kick ourselves when we don’t measure up to what we feel is the ideal mother – often falsely finding this ideal in each other and competing to reign supreme. It is an endless destructive cycle that makes us all feel terrible at one time or another. Self-criticism is not written in our DNA, and fulfilling our needs and desires is not selfish or unmotherly.

Our kids grow up so fast; mine are now in high school. This year on Mother’s Day Monday I scooped up a nothing but a few Amazon boxes, eyeing with nostalgia the untouched glitter tubes and the brand new glue bottles that at some point I purchased to replace the dried out relics from Mother’s Days past. I felt a different pang of guilt, now centered around the should-haves. We should have used this glue together to make some sort of abstract masterpiece. I should have shown more admiration of their creative talents. I should have framed every piece of their artwork since pre-K and turned our home into a family art museum to build their self-esteem. Long ago I committed to remove “should have” from my vocabulary, yet at this moment it struck me that there is one critical area of second-guessing that remains in my life: motherhood.

There are about 2 billion mothers in the world. We all need to take a few collective cleansing breathes and agree to give ourselves a break. Wherever we are in our parenting journey, we need to stop to collect ourselves. Stop feeling guilty. Stop being rushed. Stop worrying that our friends are better mothers that we are. Stop using our children as pawns in an endless and fruitless pursuit to win the game of motherhood that has been going on for generations. In our own kids’ eyes, we are always the winners.

Just two years remain before my first fledgling leaves the nest. Though I long for the days of pudgy arms and finger paint, I delight every day in the bigger, lasting rewards of seeing my children grow strong, confident and self-reliant. I realize now that how I treat myself is more important than how I treat their artwork. This Mother’s Day Monday I made a commitment to give myself a break. To show my kids the importance of self-forgiveness. To model mindfulness – literally stopping to smell the roses like we used to when they were toddlers. Happy moms don’t just make happy kids. Happy moms also make future happy moms by showing the next generation a happier, more balanced picture of motherhood.

Service is the thread that binds us

When we involve our families in community service, we reap what we sow.

It is time to flip the old adage, “What goes around comes around.” More often than not we hear this familiar expression either as a way to dissuade someone from potentially acting against another or to caution how negative experiences are impacted by karma. I prefer to interpret this through the lens of good karma. Yes, we reap what we sow; but if we sow selflessness, generosity and kindness, we’ll be justly rewarded. It is the natural order of how we humans help each other and in turn trust that others – even complete strangers – will have our back when times get tough. It is a pattern that has repeated itself since the beginning of time, each generation educating the next about the importance of giving of one’s self through their own time and resources.

As parents, we owe it to our kids to introduce them to the joy of giving. Children who volunteer are less likely to engage in destructive behaviors such as drug and alcohol use, and far more likely to act altruistically as adults. Volunteerism in childhood creates a healthy habit that will benefit kids for life; in adults it appears to lower stress levels, improve mood, increase a sense of purpose, and help people connect with the world around them. Community service gives children opportunities for independent work which can strengthen independence and leadership skills, build self-esteem, and provide valuable initial work experience. Community service has even been shown to be an effective tool in school dropout prevention. A study in the Journal of Early Adolescence concluded that serving the community helps kids make a connection between school and the real world that in turn boosts self-esteem, reduces problem behaviors, and reduces depressive mood.

So, how do we teach our children to want to give of themselves? It starts at home as we model selfless acts for our kids – and most of us already are doing this. Taking a meal to an ailing friend, helping an elderly neighbor carry in groceries, or even picking up a piece of litter as it cartwheels across our path. Every day we do little things that help our communities. Being mindful of these acts and recruiting our kids to take part in them is a start. In fact, it is sometimes the only way to involve busy older children who can’t devote the time for a Saturday beach cleanup but can spare a few minutes to deliver a casserole next door.

We are all more likely to volunteer, and to enjoy the experience if we work with someone – and community service presents a perfect opportunity for meaningful family time. Most facilities that care for the elderly encourage volunteers of all ages to visit with residents, deliver flowers, or stroll with those in wheelchairs. Parks departments always welcome organized litter-pickup initiatives, and schools might be happy to take your family’s landscaping help. Train together and run or walk in a charity 5K event, or serve a meal in a soup kitchen.

There are many service activities that can easily include even young children. With a little assistance, they can assemble care bags with fruit and granola bars for the homeless and deliver them in person or to a local outreach organization. Kids can help plan a neighborhood canned good drive for a food bank, create greeting cards for hospital patients or veterans, or make rope pet toys to deliver to a local shelter. The CEngagorporation for National and Community Service showcases service opportunities broken down by age group (nationalservice.gov).

On April 22 thousands of people across the country will work in local initiatives to recognize Earth Day, which has galvanized and educated millions of volunteers since the inaugural celebration 47 years ago. This year Earth Day will focus on environmental education and climate literacy in “March for Science” gatherings throughout America (earthday.org). A broader initiative that weekend is Youth Service America’s Global Youth Service Day (April 21-23), which celebrates the selfless achievements of children and teens working to improve communities in more than 100 countries (ysa.org). On its website, YSA gives dozens of service ideas organized by categories to match kids with their interests: health, environment, poverty and hunger, education, human rights, and community building. Youth can register their service projects to gain local support and possibly international recognition.

We all have different priorities, but a common thread that weaves together our global society is the desire to make a difference. This time-honored ritual of lending a hand is passed down from parents to kids and builds on our instinctive needs to be useful and have a sense of purpose. Parents that work side-by-side with their kids to better the community realize their role in perpetuating the natural cycle of helping others, paying forward good deeds. After all, what goes around comes around.

When to Plant, Pull, and Prune in the Family garden

Welcome to the world of companion gardening, a concept that mirrors our place in the family and community.

Each plant in your garden needs it’s own space and particular nutrients of pH, soil makeup, water, and light. If any plant is not getting what it specifically needs then the result is poor growth, fewer fruits, an unhealthy change to the leaves and/or a vulnerability to fungus and mites. If this is the case you would investigate the problem and address the issue. The plant would be moved to another area of the garden to change the light spectrum, you would add fertilizer or you water less often. None of you would decide the plant needs to be taught a lesson and place the plant in the garden shed until it decides to grow better.

Similarly, our family members need the same attention. Notice behavior but act on needs. If someone is not working towards the good of themselves and those around them, then investigate the source of the problem, make the appropriate changes and nurture the person back to optimal health. Do they need more attention, security, love, companionship or autonomy? You would not punish the plant so why punish the person.

Those of you in my pediatric practice have heard me say, “You are raising a family, not a child.” Each member of your house has needs, such as shelter, love, autonomy, security, etc. The household is happiest when each member has their needs met, and this usually includes a good night sleep on a regular basis, daily exercise and healthy foods (even if your child has to stay in the daycare at the gym.) Each person then has an improved resilience to stress and is in a better position to assist in making life wonderful for everyone around him or her. Yes, please, sign me up for good sleep and well-behaved children.

However, if one person starts to make too many demands on the others, especially under normal circumstances, then explore why this is happening instead of resorting to the default cultural norm to punish our child with a timeout if they do not comply with our needs. All they may need is a little sunshine, fresh air, food and attention. You wouldn’t take the plant that isn’t growing well and put it in the closed garden shed to teach it a lesson so investigate what essential element of life is missing and take corrective action for your family.

I encourage parents not to fear to go against the grain with parenting.  You may consider the very real movement known as positive discipline represented in an anecdotal tale of a tribal community that encircles an individual that is misbehaving.  The tribe takes turns telling him or her all the wonderful things they do.  The tribal member realigns themselves with the needs of the group and feels centered again.  In this manner, we can borrow from positive discipline to create a culture of companion gardening to help everyone in our tribe flourish.  

I hope you will start to think of companion gardening when you are with your family. Minding what makes each of us grow while remembering the gardener is vital to the health of the whole garden and comes before everything else in the house. Take care of yourself each day so you can show your partner, children and extended family healthy boundaries that you need to keep you well. They will love your authenticity and respond in kind. The example for your children will be life altering and can create a new dynamic culture for generations to come.

Toxins Lookout! How to Detox for Children

Unfortunately, our children are routinely exposed to toxins every single day in today’s world. In many cases, we have no control over the exposure, as is the case with our air and water. Here are five simple ways to help detox your children every day to keep their body healthy and functioning optimally.

Before I jump into how to detox your kids, let’s take a look at where kids are exposed to the most toxins.

COMMON TOXIN EXPOSURES FOR KIDS

Food– Just one look at typical kid cuisine will show you just how toxic it really is. From boxed dinners to fast food, kids frequently consume rancid oils, food dyes, refined flours and sugars. Foods with so little nutrition that they might as well be eating cardboard. Indeed, some ingredients are not too far removed from cardboard.

Air– On any given day, you can drive through your town or neighborhood and see someone spraying pesticides or weed killers. It’s really frustrating that these chemicals have not been banned seeing as how they cause cancer, disrupt hormones, and pose a threat to human health in general. Now, we also have to worry about massive spraying campaigns due to concern about things like Zika virus along with pesticides being sprayed on airplanes.

Water– Most cities add fluoride to their water supply because it’s believed to improve dental health but it actually causes harm, especially to growing children. Studies show that children living in areas with high fluoride exposure are at risk for low IQ, among other health issues. Not only that but chlorine is added to water to sanitize it, which is harmful to the microbiome, as it kills good gut flora. Finally, we also have to be concerned about heavy metals that are often found in water especially in places where lead pipes are used.

Everyday chemicals- From the cleaning supplies we use to our shampoo, harmful chemicals abound in most modern homes. Kids are exposed to toxins via the sheets and mattress they sleep on; the clothes they wear; the soap and toothpaste they use… you see where I’m going with this. There is not a lot of regulation when it comes to these household products and as a result, our kids have a lot to contend with.

It may seem impossible to help our kids live toxin-free, as the above list is pretty daunting. While it can be frustrating that we have so little control over some of the toxins our children are exposed to, there is plenty we can do to eliminate exposure and support their bodies!

HOW TO DETOX KIDS DAILY IN FIVE SIMPLE STEPS

FOCUS ON NUTRITION

While we can’t be sure our kids eat perfectly all the time, we can support their bodies through proper nutrition so that the occasional indulgence can be tolerated.

The best thing you can do is make sure your children eat a well-rounded diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, pastured eggs, raw dairy, and grass-fed meats. It’s debatable whether children need grains or if they’re even healthy at all. I personally believe that they should be limited to occasional, gluten-free, properly prepared consumption, if at all. Even more importantly, make sure your child isn’t eating food dyes, MSG, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup or white bread (and other refined grains)!

JUICING

While a well-rounded diet is one of the best things you can provide for your kids, targeted nutrition through juicing can be incredibly helpful. Not only does juicing provide easily digested vitamins and minerals, but also you can put specific fruits and vegetables in your juice that can target specific detox mechanisms.

Here are a few things I like to include in juices:

Beets- especially good for the liver and for cleansing the blood
Cilantro- helps the body to detox heavy metals gently
Ginger- helps to fight unwanted organism and reduce pain
Turmeric- combats inflammation
Lemon- helps to detox the liver and provides enzymes that aid in digestion

I find that as long as I use several carrots and some apple, my kids not only tolerate our morning juicing routine, but they really like it!

PROMOTE GOOD GUT FLORA

The immune system resides mostly in the gut and also dictates how well your child’s body can deal with the influx of toxins they are inundated with daily. When we support the gut we support the immune system, thereby rendering the body capable of detoxifying on a regular basis.

When the gut flora is compromised, the body is less able to handle the daily assaults of our toxic world and toxins begin to build up. This can result in any number of conditions affecting so many children today including autism, asthma, eczema, ADHD, and so on.

A good probiotic can make all the difference in the world for your child’s gut health and overall ability to detox. A probiotic healed my daughter’s eczema quickly and without major diet changes! You should also incorporate lots of raw and fermented foods in your child’s diet to promote good gut flora.

LET THEM PLAY

Kids should run around barefooted and play in the sunshine every day, as much as possible. Our modern sedentary, indoor lifestyles (facilitated by long school days and video game habits) don’t do our children’s bodies any favors.

For one thing, vitamin D is necessary for our immune systems to function properly that I mentioned above as a necessity for helping children’s bodies detox. Midday sunshine is the best source of vitamin D and allowing kids to play outside and soak up as much vitamin D as possible is one great way to strengthen their bodies’ detox mechanisms.

Additionally, connecting bare feet to the earth is known as “earthing” and it helps with detox function in a number of ways. Earthing can help combat the negative effects of electromagnetic frequencies, improve organ function, reduce inflammation, and improve sleep, all of which promote detoxification.

DETOX BATHS

Finally, get your kiddos in a special bath to promote detoxification through the skin. Detox baths are an easy way to help your child’s body deal with toxins in a manageable way.

To turn an ordinary bath into a “detox bath,” there are a number of additives you can put in the water:

  • Epson salts
  • Baking soda
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Bentonite clay
  • Essential oils

These ingredients not only draw out toxins but have health benefits of their own, which help to strengthen the immune system and nourish the body further promoting detoxification.
To make a detox bath, use as hot of water as your child tolerates (for my kids, that’s not very hot), and add a cup of one or two additives, along with a few drops of essential oils, if you’d like. (Make sure your child doesn’t drink the water!)

Encourage your kiddo to soak until the water is cool or at least for 20 minutes. With a few toys, it’s pretty easy to get kids to play in the bath for a while!

USE WHAT WORKS

No doubt, our kids come into contact with more toxins than most of us would like. Instead of fretting about it, get proactive! You can use the above tips, which are all geared towards activities kids like doing anyways.

Use what works for your child and make it fun! Serve juice up in a cute stainless steel cup with a stainless steel straw, make frequent outdoor activities a regular occurrence, and incorporate things they like into their detox routine. With just a little effort, you can make a big impact on your child’s toxin burden and overall health!

(This is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with your physician for a detox program appropriate for your children and family.)

You are so full of it your eyes are brown

I believe behaviors are strategies to get a need met and this drastically changes how I parent.

My daughter has an incredible sense of self so her needs are usually clearly stated while her behaviors are sometimes outrageous. She recently went on a pro-Chloe marketing campaign around the house. Everyone started to find “I love Chloe?” printed on the house, gutters, plants, driveway, etc in black sharpie ink. I am not certain why she included the question mark. Was this a punctuation of humility? Naivety? Or simply a red herring so that her sisters would be blamed for the graffiti? No one will ever know her self-promotion need, as she is not talking. I accept it though as a creative outlet – I may not have been so accommodating a few years back, though.

The mind of one of my children works differently than most peoples’ minds. It was no surprise that she easily qualified for the gifted program at school. I was surprised when she repeatedly decided not to turn in homework on time and subsequently lost her place in the gifted program.

Acceptance of a child’s actions is sometimes hard. I was disappointed as a parent at this wonderful lost opportunity. I was accepting as a parent who loves his child and sees each of their actions as a reflection of a need.

She needed more structure and more self-expression. Not turning in assignments was a behavior to get a need met. I focused on the need and discussed the behavior. Once she knew I understood her need, she willingly listened and we worked on a solution together. This created the empathetic space for us to have a dialogue rather than creating a power dynamic where she felt coerced and unheard.

She is always ready with a logical excuse to vindicate her action, even when she is clearly in the wrong! What’s worse is that it usually makes sense and is disarming in its humor. I happily listen to these entertaining forays.

A good case in point: At the store, Chloe told grandpa that she needed a chocolate bar. He said, “You’ve eaten so much chocolate that your eyes are brown (she has brown eyes,) and if you eat one more bar it will come out of your ears!” Her instant reply, “It doesn’t work that way Grandpa, the chocolate comes out of the bottom, so you can put more chocolate on top!”

Intelligence is a double-edged sword. As a parent, you can overthink yourself and end up in trouble with your children as they grow. You mistakenly focus on your needs and your perceived needs for the child rather than listen to their explanations and needs as well.

The child will internalize respect, clear communication and belief in their own abilities if you give them the space to grow while learning to state their needs with you listening and visa versa. An amazing consciousness will develop in both of you.

Our intelligence and wisdom are gifts allowing us to see with clarity and understanding, enabling the ability to solve problems quickly. Use these gifts to make life wonderful for your children while allowing the child to learn, as they need to.

Anyway, I forgot to ask if grandpa ended up buying her a chocolate bar that day as I was so amused by her wit.